President John F. Kennedy

Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Maryland State Archives
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In 1959 Fidel Castro seized control of the nation of Cuba, located approximately 90 miles from the coast of Florida.  Castro declared himself a communist and openly solicited aid from the Soviet Union.  Following Castro's rise to power, approximately 10 percent of the Cuban population went into exile in the United States, mostly in Miami, Florida.  In 1960, Eisenhower gave permission for the CIA to train these Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro.  Two weeks before John F. Kennedy took the oath of office, President Dwight Eisenhower cut off diplomatic relations with the nation of Cuba.  After taking the oath of office, Kennedy learned of Eisenhower's CIA plans and although he was skeptical, Kennedy authorized the plan.  On April 17, 1960, the Cuban exiles attempted to land at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba.  They were met by a large force of Cubans who were  backed up with Soviet tanks and aircraft and the commandos were repelled or captured.  Kennedy was forced to pay a ransom of $53 million in food and medical supplies for the release of the surviving commandos.  The incident was an international embarrassment for the United States and President Kennedy.

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev promised to to defend Cuba with Soviet arms and continued to ship weapons to Cuba.  During the summer of 1962, the Soviets began shipping nuclear weapons to Cuba.  Kennedy warned the Soviets that the U.S. would not tolerate offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba.  On October 14, 1962, American planes photographed missile bases in Cuba, some containing missiles ready to launch.  These missiles could reach American cities within minutes.  On October 22nd, Kennedy informed the nation of the crisis and his intention to have the missiles removed from Cuba.    Soviet ships, presumably carrying nuclear materials, were heading toward Cuba.  The U.S. Navy was prepared to prevent the ships from reaching their Cuban destination and there were 100,000 troops waiting in Florida in case invasion was necessary.    Over the next six days, the world waited on the brink of nuclear war.  The Soviet ships suddenly stopped and Khrushchev offered to remove the missiles in exchange for a pledge from the U.S. not to invade Cuba.  The U.S. also secretly agreed to remove missiles from Turkey.  The crisis was over. 

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 9: Postwar United States (1945 to early 1970s)

Standard 2: How the Cold War and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam influenced domestic and international politics

Standard 2A: The student understands the international origins and domestic consequences of the Cold War. 

7-12: Explain the origins of the Cold War and the advent of nuclear politics. [Hold interpretations of history as tentative] 

Standard 2B: The student understands United States foreign policy in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America. 

7-12: Evaluate changing foreign policy toward Latin America. [Identify issues and problems in the past]

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Aerial Photograph, Missiles in Cuba
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  November 1, 1962
    SOURCE: Milestone Documents in the National Archives
    REPOSITORY: National Archives and Records Administration 

  2. DESCRIPTION: Oral history, Warren Rogers
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  December 28, 1998
    NOTES: Rogers was a Pentagon correspondent chosen to go to Cuba to cover events of the day
    SOURCE:  American Century Project

  3. DESCRIPTION: CIA Special National Intelligence Estimate, “Major Consequences of Certain U.S. Courses of Action on Cuba,” October 20, 1962
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  October 20, 1962
    SOURCE:  The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: A Political Perspective of 40 years
    REPOSITORY:  The National Security Archive, George Washington University

  4. DESCRIPTION:  Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, military briefing, “Notes on October 21, 1962 Meeting with the President.”
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  October 21, 1962
    SOURCE:  The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: A Political Perspective of 40 years
    REPOSITORY:  The National Security Archive, George Washington University

  5. DESCRIPTION: “Radio-TV Address of the President to the Nation from the White House,” October 22, 1962.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  October 22, 1962
    SOURCE:  The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: A Political Perspective of 40 years
    REPOSITORY:  The National Security Archive, George Washington University

  6. DESCRIPTION: Prime Minister Fidel Castro’s letter to Premier Khrushchev, October 26, 1962.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  October 26, 1962
    SOURCE:  The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: A Political Perspective of 40 years
    REPOSITORY:  The National Security Archive, George Washington University

  7. DESCRIPTION: White House, “Post Mortem on Cuba,” October 29, 1962.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  October 29, 1962
    NOTES: Written by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
    SOURCE:  The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: A Political Perspective of 40 years
    REPOSITORY:  The National Security Archive, George Washington University

Additional Media Resources

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

COLD WAR: CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS. Revelations from the Russian Archives.  From the Library of Congress

Foreign Relations of the United States: 1961-1963 Cuban Missile Crisis and Aftermath. From the Avalon Project at the Yale School of Law 

Cuban Missile Crisis. From Marxists Internet Archives

Fourteen Days in October: The Cuban Missile Crisis

Additional Instructional Resources 

Cuban Missile Crisis. Lesson plan from the U.S. State Department

Secondary Resources

Blight, James G. The Shattered Crystal Ball: Fear and Learning in the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Savage, Maryland. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 1990.

Huchthausen, Peter A. October Fury. Hoboken, New Jersey. John Wiley & Sons Inc. 2002.

Kennedy, Robert F. and Arthur Schlesinger. Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis. New York, New York. W.W. Norton & Company.  1969.

Kort, Michael, The Columbia Guide to the Cold War. New York, New York. Columbia University Press. 1998

Russo, Gus. Live by the Sword: The Secret War Against Castro and the Death of JFK. Baltimore, Maryland. Bancroft Press. 1998.

Unger, Irwin. Recent America: The United States Since 1945. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Pearson Education, Inc. 2002

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Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Susan E. Pennington.

An Archives of Maryland Online Publication
© Copyright, Maryland State Archives, April 05, 2005